A Redneck Head on a Nazi Body: Subversive Ludo-Narrative Strategies in Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
Research output: Journal Article or Conference Article in Journal › Journal article › Research › peer-review
This article argues that Wolfenstein: The New Colossus, a AAA First-Person Shooter, is not only politically themed, but presents in itself a critical engagement with the politics of its genre and its player base. Developed at the height of #Gamergate, the game is interpreted as a response to reactionary discourses about gender and ability in both mainstream games and the hardcore gamer community. The New Colossus replaces affirmation of masculine empowerment with intersectional ambiguities, foregrounding discourses of feminism and disability. To provoke its players without completely alienating them, the game employs strategies of carnivalesque aesthetics—especially ambivalence and grotesque excess. Analyzing the game in the light of Bakhtinian theory shows how The New Colossus reappropriates genre conventions pertaining to able-bodiedness and masculinity and how it “resolves” these issue by grafting the player character’s head on a vat-grown Nazi supersoldier-body. The breaches of genre conventions on the narrative level are supported by intentionally awkward and punishing mechanics, resulting in a ludo-narrative aesthetic of defamiliarization commensurate to a grotesque story about subversion and revolt. Echoing the ritualistic cycle of death and rebirth at the heart of carnivalesque aesthetics, The New Colossus is nothing short of an ideological re-invention of the genre.
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